COMMENTARY | Over the past decade, the San Jose Sharks have teased, tempted and, ultimately, disappointed local fans and national hockey pundits.
Always one of the bigger, quicker and more talented teams, the Sharks have put up big numbers in the regular season only to fold in the playoffs like a two-seven off-suit at the World Series of Poker.
With Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi, the Sharks have marquee, Olympic-caliber players. What has traditionally been missing is the complements to the big pieces. The signings this offseason signal a commitment to building and maintaining a more complete team.
Logan Couture, 5-year, $30 million extension
Entering his fifth season in the NHL, Couture has established himself as one of the league's brightest young stars, and he is probably the roster's only "untouchable" in the eyes of GM Doug Wilson -- he's a true franchise cornerstone to build upon.
Couture is steady and consistent in his production, with 89 goals and 78 assists in 232 NHL games over his career. Moreover, he's one of the few Sharks who steps it up come playoff time, with 17 goals and 16 assists in 49 career playoff outings. Still just 24, Couture is a staple on the power play and responsible in the defensive zone. The only part missing from Couture's game is that gritty, physical presence on the forecheck. The Sharks' other signings have more than addressed that critical need.
Tyler Kennedy, 2 years, $4.7 million
The Sharks traded for the rights to Kennedy from Pittsburgh during the draft and then signed the pending restricted free agent. On the talent-laden roster of the Penguins, Kennedy was often a forgotten player, up until the point Pens coach Dan Blysma needed toughness and spirited play to spur the troops. Kennedy leads by example on the ice, and his non-stop motor energizes teammates and fans alike. Throw in a knack for big goals, including six playoff game-winning goals, and Kennedy will earn steady minutes in Sharks coach Todd McLellan's forward rotation.
Raffi Torres, 3 years, $6 million
Oh yes, I've heard you loud and clear: "Raffi Torres is a thug," "a goon." Point well-taken; Torres has, over the course of his career, shown an alarming tendency to exercise extremely poor judgment.
Now, for the counterpoint: Torres still largely has the skills that made him the No. 5 overall selection in the 2000 NHL entry draft. He can flat out skate, and his hands are better than average, giving him the tools to add critical secondary scoring punch on the third line. Of course, his biggest strengths are his grit and willingness to grind -- an effort player that gets under the skin of most every opponent across the rink.
There's one other point, and a bit of a of a surprise at that: In 39 games last season, Torres had only 17 penalty minutes, and that includes the five for fighting he had to take as part of the Blackhawks' payback for his 2012 playoff hit on Marion Hossa. If Torres can continue to change his game for the better, the Sharks have found a key complementary piece.
Scott Hannan, 1 year, $1 million
Back for his second stint as a Shark and the result of a deadline trade last spring, Hannan is a popular crowd favorite. A stay-at-home defenseman, Hannan will never wow with goals, assists and pretty skating. What he will do is quietly and effectively go about his business shutting down opponents and being trusted in all game situations. In his prime, Hannan was a solid plus/minus guy. Now that he's back with a contender, the Sharks staff will look for continued resurgence.
@RayHartjen is a longtime rink rat who's been on a decades-long quest to get the stink of hockey gloves off his hands.
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